Shake Your Moneymaker

The Black Crowes

Def American Records, 1990

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


The Black Crowes's success can be summed up in a simple sentence: They were in the right place at the right time.

When their debut album Shake Your Moneymaker came out in 1990, it provided a slap in the face to the stagnating rock sound. Southern rock was back, it had lost little of the boogie, and it even had gained a new sense of introspection - all while being a touch trippy-hippie and mysterious. It was exactly what the scene needed.

Brothers Chris and Rich Robinson (on vocals and guitars, respectively) were a definite yin-yang duo on the lines of Ray and Dave Davies of The Kinks: creative as all get-out, but as explosive as nitroglycerine. Drummer Steve Gorman, bassist Johnny Colt and second guitarist Jeff Cease rounded out the group - and were just as pivotal in creating the sound that put the Crowes on the map.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

It takes guts to cover such an r&b classic as Otis Redding's "Hard To Handle" - and it takes talent to outdo the original. This version makes me want to get up and dance every time I hear it (but I can't stand the alternate version I occasionally hear on the radio with the horns added).

Of course, the other songs that are now well-grounded in radio are still exciting to hear. "Twice As Hard" is a great way to kick off the album, building from the guitar line into a crescendo of the whole band, topped with Chris Robinson's occasionally-unrecognizable vocals. Thing is, it works - and it works well. "Jealous Again" is a rolling number that sucks you into the beat and doesn't let go. And "She Talks To Angels" is a surprisingly powerful ballad that seems to explore a darker picture than the lyrics originally suggest - the imagery is especially powerful.

But although 40 percent of Shake Your Moneymaker has already been played to death on radio, there still are many other good performances that have yet to be truly "discovered" in the same way. "Seeing Things" is an almost spiritual ballad that always struck me as one of the better songs on the album, while "Sister Luck" is a track that should have been a strong indicator of what we could have expected from the band's next release. Even the balls-out rocker "Thick N' Thin" has a lot of charm to it.

Sure, there are a few songs that don't hold their water as well, like the album's closer "Stare It Cold" - but these are few and far between.

The biggest complaint I have with Shake Your Moneymaker is that it's very much a mood album - that is, whether you're going to like it or not changes daily. Some days I'll pick this one up and barely be able to stand it, but most days I feel as positive as everything I've said so far. If you find that you're just not getting into the whole vibe, best advice is to put it down for a few days, then try it again.

Rating: A-

User Rating: A



© 1998 Christopher Thelen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Def American Records, and is used for informational purposes only.